NEWLY appointed Queanbeyan Blues coach Simon Woolford says the club’s impressive off-season recruitment drive is almost complete following the marquee signings of former NRL players Trevor Thurling and Marc Herbert.
The prized signatures of Thurling and Herbert were confirmed late last month and the two additions alone immediately vault the Blues back into genuine premiership contention next season.
The two headliners join well-regarded forwards Levi Freeman [West Belconnen] and Tony McLean [Yass] who have also signed on with the east-Queanbeyan club for 2013.
“I rang Marc literally the day I signed on with the Blues,” Woolford told The Queanbeyan Age. “Quality halves are pretty scarce around the place. “Trevor was obviously a real target having lost a couple of front-rowers so those two blokes were my main priorities.
“We’ve been lucky enough to recruit a couple of other guys as well in Levi Freeman and Tony McLean who is one of the best forwards in the competition.
“We’re in the process of talking to a couple of quality outside backs as well who just need to sign off but hopefully by the middle of October we’ll have everyone we need on board.”
Thurling’s recruitment is a major boost for the Blues above and beyond his 100 games of NRL experience with the Canberra Raiders and Canterbury Bulldogs.
As a club junior, the 28-year-old does not count toward the points system used by the Canberra Raiders Cup competition in lieu of a salary cap.
The Blues will be without the services of forwards Matt Holmes (Darwin) and Steve McLean (retired) next season while the death of prop Jay Lasscock has left a considerable hole in the club’s playing roster.
Woolford’s own signing meanwhile, is a major coup for the Blues and the ex-Canberra Raiders captain brings a wealth of top-level experience – and contacts – to the club.
Woolford played 233 games in the NRL with the Canberra Raiders from 1994-2006 before a two-year stint at St George-Illawarra.
The former Country Origin hooker and ACT representative coach has signed on at the Blues for the next two seasons after the club declined to renew former coach Adam Doyle’s contract.
The 37-year-old previously coached the Gungahlin Bulls in 2010 but relinquished the role in order to pursue media opportunities at Fox Sports.
Having now returned to the coaching ranks, Woolford will juggle his Blues commitments alongside a specialised coaching role with the Raiders and his commercial cleaning business.
“I thought when I retired I’d give the media a crack…but it’s not something I miss to be honest,” Woolford said. “I’d never rule [coaching] out long-term but I guess we’ll see how it goes after a couple of years with the Blues.
“At the moment I’m happy just doing what I do with the Blues and with the Raiders but if the right [coaching] opportunities come up down the track, I’d never say never.”